Pot Odds – The Easy to Understand Basics

What are Pot Odds?

You have probably heard of pot odds but maybe you’re not sure what they are or how to calculate them? Don’t worry, everyone has been there. Basically, pot odds are the comparison of the cost of making a call compared to the size of the pot. It is usually expressed as a ratio; however, the far more valuable tool is the conversion of ratio to percentage.

How to Calculate Pot Odds?

Pot Size Versus Amount to Call = Pot Odds as Ratio
$100: $10 or 10:1
I think it is more valuable to see this as a percentage. To convert this, we simply add the pot size and the amount to call and divide the amount to call by the pot size. Using the example above, it would be:

$100 + $10 = $110
$10 / $110 = 9%

What is the Point?

Understanding the maths is very important to being a long-term winner at poker. Decision making is often based on the maths aspect, is a call profitable? Are they bluffing often enough? etc. In order to use pot odds effectively, a poker player combines the context of the situation with the odds at hand. It also allows one to manipulate the pot odds and enforce errors on the part of your opponents – a key skill requirement.
Let’s look at an example of how pot odds could be used for important decision making.

pot odds
Photo by Chris Liverani

Example Hand

With a pot size of $50 and one card to come. Player A has a flush draw holding Kc 10c on a board of Ac 8c 2s 4s. Player B has Ad 8d with top two pair and is considering how much to bet. By betting $30, the pot will be $80 and Player A will be getting $30 for a pot of $110.   Using the method above, we can see this can be converted to represent 27%. With a flush draw and one card to come we know there is approximately 18% chance of Player A making the best hand, thus, the bet enforces an error on the part of player A as Player A is not getting a sufficient price to make the call.
On the other hand, if Player B bets $10, Player A will have 16.6% and a turn call becomes profitable.

Conclusion

As we can see from the above example, pot odds can influence decision making and affect your long-term profitability. They should be used in combination with your hand reading, context and implied odds (look out for future article on implied odds). One of the great things about poker is you are in control of your decisions. By understanding odds and relative hand strength, you can learn to manipulate pot sizes (something not possible with slot odds) how you want to and enforce mistakes from opponents.

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